GOLETA — By at least one assessment, it will take no less than six more games for the U.S. soccer team to find the chemistry it so clearly lacks. Until that time, when players' thoughts and action coalesce, the team's performance against Romania on Saturday probably will be the norm.
After a goal by Dominic Kinnear in the second minute, the United States slipped to a 1-1 tie. The game, played before 9,127 at UC Santa Barbara's Harder Stadium, was as rough as the bumpy turf. Three Romanian players and one from the United States were given yellow cards.
It was the second match and second tie of the year for the United States, which had only four ties in 24 games last year.
Even the return of Eric Wynalda did not help organize the U.S. team, especially at midfield, where again and again the Romanians stripped the ball and launched counterattacks. The absence of Hugo Perez, the U.S. quarterback who is playing professionally in Saudi Arabia, is beginning to have an effect.
"It takes at least six to eight games for a team to jell and develop the chemistry we need," said Sigi Schmid, UCLA's men's soccer coach and assistant national coach. "We're still trying to get organized at midfield."
There are six former UCLA players on the team, but even they appear to still be trying to read each other's minds.
Wynalda might have had the toughest time, having joined the team from the German Bundesliga only Thursday night and practicing Friday. Wynalda's return to the U.S. team, even for only one game, was much anticipated. The midfielder from Westlake Village played with style, but his fancy moves did not mesh with those of his teammates, especially on a pot-holed and uneven field.
"Wynalda today likes to show everything that he knows," said U.S. Coach Bora Milutinovic, working his way gingerly through English. "But sometimes what you want to do, you don't always do. I'm so happy he plays with us."
Wynalda had his best chance to score during the first half, when he was one-on-one with Romanian goalkeeper Florian Prunea. His shot flew over the net.
Goalkeeper Brad Friedel looked solid in his second international start. Friedel was without defensive help on the Romanian goal, by Ilie Dumitrescu in the 39th minute.